Jonny Wilkinson coy on British and Irish Lions prospects

 

Jonny Wilkinson remained coy on his chances of receiving a British and Irish Lions call-up after leading Toulon to the Heineken Cup final.

Wilkinson kicked all Toulon's points in the 24-12 semi-final win over Saracens.

He outshone current England fly-half Owen Farrell, who is also hoping to be named in the Lions squad on Tuesday.

Lions fixture list

  • Sat 1 June: Barbarians, Hong Kong
  • Wed 5 June: Western Force, Perth
  • Sat 8 June: Queensland Reds, Brisbane
  • Wed 12 June: Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country, Newcastle
  • Sat 15 June: New South Wales Waratahs, Sydney
  • Tue 18 June: ACT Brumbies, Canberra
  • Sat 22 June: First Test, Brisbane
  • Tue 25 June: Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
  • Sat 29 June: Second Test, Melbourne
  • Sat 6 July: Third Test, Sydney

"Young players like Farrell, Toby Flood, Wales' Dan Biggar and Ireland's Jonny Sexton are taking rugby forward. It's their era," said the 33-year-old.

"I want those guys to experience that because they deserve it. I'm digging my fingernails in and hanging on really, and watching these guys is what it's all about."

But Wilkinson, who toured with the Lions in 2001 and 2005, could be named alongside, or at the expense of, those players when head coach Warren Gatland announces his selection on Tuesday for this summer's tour to Australia.

One factor against him is Gatland's preference to leave with his whole squad together on 27 May, but Toulon are likely to be involved in the French Top 14 final on 1 June, the same day as the Lions' opening match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

The Lions face a three-Test series against the Wallabies, with the first Test in Brisbane on 22 June.

Wilkinson, who retired from England duty in December 2011, boosted his selection chances with a man-of-the-match display against Saracens at Twickenham.

He produced a faultless kicking performance from the tee, landing seven penalties, as well as a late drop-goal to lead the French side to their first Heineken Cup final.

They face Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne on 18 May in Dublin.

Wilkinson on Twickenham return

"It has been good to come back - I know I'll probably not get too many more chances and I'm trying to make the most of those I get. Today will be one that I remember."

"It's a great moment but today didn't go fantastically well and it was more about scrapping and digging in until the end," the former Newcastle player told BBC 5 live.

"I think we did that well but we have got lots to look at before the final.

"Saracens could have put a couple of tries away but thankfully it went our way and we crept through.

"We know we've got a lot of work to do because Saracens gave us a good lesson. We've done very well to get through."

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte said Wilkinson's performance on his return to Twickenham - the scene of many successes during his 91-Test England career - proved he was "not finished".

"Jonny was huge today," he said. "Great players win great matches and that was the case."

Jonny Wilkinson's Twickenham career highlights

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall felt his side did not deserve to be on the receiving end of a 12-point defeat.

"It seems as though it was comfortable for Toulon - but it wasn't," he said.

"There were a couple of times when we were three points down when we had some decent chances in their 22 and failed to capitalise. And Jonny Wilkinson kept on kicking goals from long distance.

"We did a lot of things well but it just wasn't enough."

Wilkinson killed the game with a late drop-goal, just getting his kick away before feeling the full force of Farrell's desperate attempt to stop him.

"I respectfully apologised and said 'mate, I got lucky there, I've hit that one without really looking where it's going'," added Wilkinson, who gave the 21-year-old a consoling pat on the shoulder.

"He's caught me with a good hit and I've looked up and it crept in. I felt he did a great job and probably didn't deserve that."